How do blog post tags affect SEO?

How do blog post tags affect SEO?

This week’s SEO Question is from Louise R – a current member of The Recipe for SEO Success eCourse.

SEO question:

“I came across a site the other day that displays a huge number of tags on the actual webpage in the right hand column of its Program page (i.e. services page). What are the pros and cons of doing this? Are tags good for SEO?”

Short answer:

They don’t have that much affect on SEO.
They may have a negative affect if you over use them.

I tend to use categories rather than tags.

Long answer:

What are tags?
Tags are words and phrases that explain to the reader what a particular blog post is about. Often they’re displayed in a list at the start of the post and in the sidebar as a ‘tag cloud’.

How should I be using them?
With restraint! Ideally your blog content will already be organised into around 8-10 core categories. Tags should be used to provide another level of detail, but it’s important to:

  • Be consistent: Don’t have different versions of essentially the same tag – for example, ‘piglet’, ‘piggies’, ‘piglets’.
  • Limited your tags: Don’t give each post 500 tags – keep it to three or four maximum. Review them to ensure relevance and consider carefully when adding any new ones to the mix.

How do they affect SEO?
Rather than having a positive affect on SEO, tags can actually have a negative affect, which is why I use them sparingly. Here’s why:

  • Tags are often just duplicated data that ready exists.
  • Tags clouds are really just a list of links so, if you have 100s of them, you could exceed the recommended number (I don’t like to go over 200 links on any page).
  • Even if you just have a few tag links, you’re still allowing page rank (authority, SEO juice) to flow through them – possibly out of a good page into unimportant pages or posts.
  • Again, if you have 100s of random words all jumbled together, Google could potentially see them as keyword spam.
  • They’re not particularly useful to your customers – when did you last navigate using tags?
  • Google can index tag archives as ‘pages’, which can take attention away from more important content on your site.

That’s why I add the following to my robots.txt file to ensure that Google doesn’t crawl my tags:

Disallow: /tag/

As Perry Bernard from Forge Online explains:

“In Yoast I turn off the tag archive sitemap because I don’t want too much dynamically filled stuff being crawled as it dilutes my core objectives. That said, the effect is likely small – because Google most likely ‘sees’ these pages as archives not landing pages.”

Here’s what Mr. Cutts has to say:

[et_bloom_inline optin_id=”optin_3″]

  • The use of tag clouds or having tag archives in your sitemap are different things, but in terms of links presents pretty much the same issue: Clusters of links without significant context really doesn’t benefit your site’s SEO status much, and may even harm it. I hadn’t seen the Matt Cutts vid before, but good to see some agreement on the topic.